Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel? The Cleveland Browns once again give us another chapter in what seems to be a constant NFL conundrum. Which quarterback to start? Brian Hoyer is now gone, but with that in mind, we run down the biggest quarterback controversies in NFL history.
Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett (Houston Texans)
Houston Texans quarterbacks Ryan Mallett (left) and Brian Hoyer (right) only make the list because Hoyer was embroiled in a controversy last year in Cleveland and because when Mallett was asked about being beaten out, he said he was 'angry' about losing the job.
RG3, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy (Redskins)
The drama in Washington between Robert Griffin III and head coach Jay Gruden has been palpable. Now it appears Griffin, who is now 14-21 as a starter, lost his job for good to Kirk Cousins. Colt McCoy even started last season, too. RG3 was running with the first-team offense this offseason, but a concussion has propelled the inevitable.
Getty ImagesPatrick Smith
Joe Montana and Steve Young (49ers)
Montana was responsible for starting the 49ers’ dynasty in the 1980s. But in the latter half of the decade, Montana’s injuries piled up and Young looked good in relief duty. There was no love lost, and Young often said he wanted to start. Still, Montana didn’t leave until 1993 when he was traded to the Chiefs. Joe Cool beat Young in their only matchup in 1994, the same year Young won his first Super Bowl.
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Roger Staubach and Craig Morton (Cowboys)
This one was awkward. At one point in 1971, Tom Landry alternated Staubach (pictured) and Morton on consecutive plays. In 1972, Staubach ended the controversy for good by relieving Morton in a divisional playoff game against the 49ers, spurring a comeback win. Morton lost Super Bowl V as the Cowboys starter, but Staubach went on to win two Super Bowls as the starter in Dallas. That included a drubbing of the Morton-led Broncos in 1977.
Focus on Sport/Getty ImagesFocus On Sport
Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler (Giants)
Simms led the Giants to their first Super Bowl win following the 1986 season, but after he broke his foot in Week 15 of the 1990 season, Hostetler (pictured) stepped in and led the Giants to five straight wins, including over the Montana-led 49ers in the NFC championship game and a thriller over the Bills in the Super Bowl. Hostetler beat out Simms for the starting job the following season but suffered a season-ending injury in Week 13. Simms won the starting job over Hostetler in 1992 but suffered a season-ending injury of his own in Week 4. Hostetler was released in 1993 and Simms led the Giants to an 11-5 season. But after offseason shoulder surgery, Simms was released and he retired.
Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
Favre (left) turned his decision to retire into an annual soap opera in his final few years in Green Bay. Once he called it quits officially (well, not really) in 2008 and the Packers decided to give the reins to Rodgers, Favre pulled an about-face and wanted back in. After a contentious few months, in which Favre declared he wouldn't return to Green Bay as a backup, he got dealt to the Jets and finished his career with the hated Vikings. Rodgers, meanwhile, won a Super Bowl in 2010.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Philip Rivers and Drew Brees (Chargers)
A second-round pick in 2001, Brees (right) hadn't yet come into his own when the Chargers selected Eli Manning with the first pick of the 2004 draft, then traded him to the Giants for Rivers, the No. 4 pick. However, Rivers held out for most of training camp and Brees led the Chargers to a 12-4 season. Brees continued his Pro Bowl-caliber play in 2005 but was headed for free agency, and with big bucks being paid to Rivers, the Chargers needed a reason to not offer him a huge deal. They got it when Brees injured his shoulder in the last game of 2005. Rivers took his job, Brees took a better offer from New Orleans, and it ended up working out for both players. Rivers is a five-time Pro Bowler in San Diego and Brees won a ring with the Saints in 2010.
Getty ImagesKent Nishimura
Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe (Patriots)
We have Mo Lewis to thank for this one. Bledsoe (right) was a Pro Bowler with a 10-year, $103 million contract who'd led the Pats to the Super Bowl in 1997. But when the Jets linebacker sent him to the sideline with a hit in the second game of the 2001 season, Tom Brady stepped in and led the Pats to a Super Bowl title (and the beginning of a dynasty). Controversy came in the AFC title game that year when Brady hurt his knee and Bledsoe beat the Steelers in relief duty. Should Bledsoe start the Super Bowl against the Rams? Well, he didn’t, and we all know how the rest of Brady's story goes. Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo in the offseason.
AFP/Getty ImagesJEFF HAYNES
Elvis Grbac and Rich Gannon (Chiefs)
Grbac (left), who was Steve Young's backup in San Francisco, signed with K.C. in 1997 to be the starter. But he got hurt and Gannon led the Chiefs to five straight wins and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Coach Marty Schottenheimer elected to go with a healthy Grbac in the playoffs, and the Chiefs were ousted by the upstart Broncos in their first game. Grbac and Gannon split snaps in 1998 before Gannon signed with the Raiders the following year, leaving Grbac to QB the Chiefs. Gannon, meanwhile, led the Raiders to the 2003 Super Bowl.
AFP/Getty ImagesDAVE KAUP
Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson (Vikings)
Kramer (pictured) replaced Fran Tarkenton when he retired in 1979 and quarterbacked the Vikings for most of the '80s, winning Comeback Player of the Year in 1986. But he split time with Wilson in 1987 and Wilson was the starter when the Vikings upset the high-powered 49ers and made a run to the NFC title game, falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Redskins. Wilson led the way for the next two seasons, though the two continued to split time, before he was supplanted as starter by Rich Gannon in 1990. Kramer was released after the 1989 season and signed with New Orleans. He appeared in only one game, against the Vikings, before he retired.
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Joe Gilliam and Terry Bradshaw (Steelers)
Before the Blonde Bomber took over for good, he lost his starting job to Gilliam in 1974. A career backup, Gilliam (left) won his first two starts, throwing for more than 600 yards, and paced the team to a 4-1-1 record. But after he completed just 5 of 18 passes in Week 6, in addition to running afoul of coach Chuck Noll's team rules and game plans, the Steelers went back to Bradshaw in Week 7 and went on to win the first of four Super Bowl victories with Bradshaw. Gilliam was out of the league after 1975.
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Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson (Bills)
The fan favorite vs. the high-priced free agent. In 1998, Flutie (pictured) returned to the NFL after nine years in the CFL when Johnson, who'd joined Buffalo with a $25 million deal in the offseason, went down with an injury. Flutie went 8-3 as a stater that season and made the Pro Bowl, then led the Bills to a 10-5 record in 1999 before coach Wade Phillips started Johnson in the season finale. Phillips picked Johnson to start the wild card game against the Titans. That was about to work out ... before the Music City Miracle. Flutie was named the backup the following season and cut after it. He signed with the Chargers in 2001 and scored the winning TD against Johnson and the Bills in Week 7.
AFP/Getty ImagesALEX HORVATH
Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams (Redskins)
Schroeder (pictured) took over for Joe Theismann after his career-ending injury in 1985 and led the Redskins to the NFC title game against the Giants the following year, but took such a drubbing that the controversy was born. Schroeder was injured in the first game of 1987 and shook off Williams at one point when he was supposed to come out — giving new fuel to the controversy. Schroeder never fully recovered his health or his standing in the locker room that season, and Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl title. Schroeder was traded to the Raiders the following season. Williams struggled with injuries the following season and served as Mark Rypien's backup until he retired after the 1989 season.
Getty ImagesBob Martin
Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield (Rams)
In what was dubbed the first real quarterback controversy, Van Brocklin was drafted in 1949 to compete with Waterfield (pictured, center), who already was a star QB. Van Brocklin was known to call his own plays when he didn’t like the ones from the sideline. These guys alternated by quarter at one point. In 1950, the duo led the Rams to the NFL title game and lost, but they returned the following year and won. Waterfield retired after the 1952 season while Van Brocklin continued to quarterback the Rams for several years. Both ended up in the Hall of Fame.